This Thanksgiving, progressives should be thankful for the same things everyone else should be thankful for: most of us were raised by loving parents who sacrificed for us and taught us by their words and actions the values that have made America great. Many of us have wonderful spouses and children. In the process of raising our children we learned even more about how much we should appreciate our parents -- and we experienced the joy they received from the care we provided. I am thankful first and foremost for my family.
I am personally thankful to the scientists that developed treatments for pneumonia and the doctors and nurses that provided the treatments. I suffered from pneumonia three times in my youth and had I been born a decade earlier I would have died as a child. I am grateful to my teachers, who recognized and cultivated a love of learning in their students. I am grateful to Social Security, which made it possible for our family to avoid economic disaster when my father died of a second heart attack when he was 41. (The moderately successful governmental effort against cigarettes came too late to save him.) The Social Security survivors' benefits prevented my mother (and we three kids) from losing the home and allowed me to go on to college and post-graduate education.
I am grateful to a nation in which I could be a serial whistle blower exposing the misconduct of two presidential employees, the Speaker of the House James Wright, and the "Keating Five" -- and survive. I became the target of Charles Keating and Speaker Wright, and they made considerable efforts to get me fired and destroy me. In any other nation they would have succeeded. Instead, two presidential appointees resigned in disgrace, Speaker Wright resigned in disgrace, and the Keating Five were at least embarrassed. I am grateful for my colleagues who contained the S&L debacle before it became an economic catastrophe in the face of immense political pressure and the destruction or crippling of their careers. To this day, I do not know the political affiliation, if any, of my three regulatory colleagues at the Keating Five meeting -- and I worked with them for years. Party was irrelevant to us. We simply detested the frauds and their political patrons and believed in our nation and in our oath of office. I am grateful to my friends and to my (past and present) colleagues.
While my effective colleagues and I are no longer employable as regulators (and that is sad, for I believe that we have much to offer the nation based on our experience), the University of Missouri-Kansas City was happy to grant me tenure. I am grateful that we live in a nation that values academic freedom.
Progressive values are age-old values that have made the world a far better place. We simply draw on the Wisdom of the Ancients:
If I am not for me, who will be?
If I am only for me, who am I?
And if not now, when?
I am grateful to the Ancients, who faced a vastly crueler world and recognized that the key was for each of us to try to repair it, and whose advice has led generations to make those repairs rather than accepting cruelty, greed, exploitation, and indifference as the natural state. I am thankful for all who came before and worked to make things better.
William K. Black is an Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a white-collar criminologist and was a senior financial regulator. He is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.